Climbing Mount Monadnock, NH

2nd Most Climbed Mountain in the World (after Mt Fuji, Japan)

The hiker is provided with key information on climbing 3,165 foot Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire with views into the surrounding states. The two and a quarter mile-long Spellman Trail to the top of Mount Monadnock begins a little beyond Monadnock State Park Headquarters just outside of Jaffrey, New Hampshire. There is no other way to get here than by private car where there is enough parking for over a hundred cars. The starting point of the Spellman Trail (marked with a vertical white bar) is 1,000 feet above sea level.

CAM02002Hikers should sign in at the State Park Headquarters for the Spellman Trail (there are numerous other trails to the summit, but Spellman is the most picturesque).

The best times to climb Monadnock are mid spring through mid fall. Be aware that afternoon thunderstorms may build up during this period of time. The worst times to climb Monadnock (unless the hiker has good winter gear) would be from early November to mid April. There are no man-made hazards on this two and a quarter-mile trail but the hiker should be wary of a least one very steep section of the trail after about two miles shortly before the summit. Once the hiker is under way s/he will enter a lush hemlock/maple/birch forest that is full of song birds.

A Thoreauvian Bog

CAM02011From the beginning of the trail up to the junction of Red Spot Trail (one mile in), hikers should bear right and continue through a forest of paper birches, white pines and giant beech trees having large, heart-shaped leaves. At an elevation of 2,000 feet and a bit beyond the Red Spot trail junction, the hiker will be treated to a beautiful northern bog that Henry David Thoreau, in 1852, described as staying perpetually moist by “retaining some of the clouds.” The climber should pause here to enjoy the fragrance of the striped maple forest and to listen to the piping of white-throated sparrows and eastern warblers.

A False Tree Line

Reaching to the top

Reaching to the top

The trail rises quite steeply above the bog into a forest of red spruce replacing the white pines of lower elevations. From up here the hiker will notice farther above a false tree line near the rambling, turtle-shell summit of Monadnock. This false tree line was created by a fierce forest fire in the early part of the nineteenth century. The evergreens have not yet come back due to the fact that above 3,000 feet in New Hampshire the climate is quite severe, even more severe atop Mount Washington farther north and over 3,000 feet above Monadnock. The hiker will notice a distinct chill in the air as she approaches the summit.

Ice-cold Falcon Spring

In the summer forests of red spruce and yellow birch, grow abundant clusters of white Canada mayflowers. Before a steep and rocky ascent to the summit lies Falcon Spring where the hiker may be refreshed with an ice-cold drink of pure spring water. While pausing for a drink, one may be treated to a chorus of piping Tennessee warblers and hermit thrushes from the deeper woods. The trail steepens sharply at an elevation approaching 3,000 feet. The hiker must be careful to keep alert and not look at the fantastic views of valleys below and hills beyond unless she stops at a secure spot.

Views into Massachusetts and Vermont

Views into Massachusetts and Vermont

Views into Massachusetts and Vermont

As the climber gains the rocky summit, he will see southward on a clear day to Mounts Wachusett and distant Greylock in Massachusetts and westward into the rolling hills of Vermont, and to the east, the lakes of southern New Hampshire. The rocky, turtle-shell summit of Monadnock rises to 3,165 feet or 2,165 feet above the trail head.The hike up takes two to three hours, depending on how long a person spends photographing. Bring sufficient water even though there is a trail side spring. There are no rest rooms on this trail. You can pick up a map of Monadnock’s many trails back down at the State Park Headquarters at the beginning of the Spellman Trail.

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